Jonathan Langseth Phi351-Miller Final Paper 12/17/06

The Place of Philosophy

In this paper I will be examining some arguments put forth by Jacques Derrida, in his essay Plato’s Pharmacy, and Richard Rorty, in Philosophy as a Kind of Writing, on the nature of philosophy and its position in relation to other forms of writing. Throughout I will use the mentioned texts of Derrida and Rorty to unfold an argument against truth as representation. Beyond my own personal remarks in response to Derrida and Rorty’s claims, I will establish a dialogue between their ideas and a few ideas from other philosophers, in particular later Wittgenstein, Austin and the Pragmatists. Through such a dialogue of ideas I hope to reaffirm the persistence of the question regarding adequate representation and show that in spite of such a question philosophy does go beyond the text. Rorty distinguishes between what he calls Kantian philosophy and non-Kantian Philosophy. The commonality between all Kantian philosophies is the idea of philosophy as ‘mirroring nature’, as Rorty would say. Another way to put this is to say that Kantian philosophy


” and also. Thus philosophy differs only in that it claims to poke at a ghost that it can never touch (or even determine the existence of). Derrida says. Derrida wants to say that the signifier can only signify other signifiers. It is obvious that in philosophy. and that therefore philosophy does not do anything beyond what other kinds of writing can do. but that it was unknowable except for a few inferential acceptances of possibilities (the antinomies). starting from the assumption that there is a reality ‘out there’. and what is written must be read. This is to say that the context of the textual is the textual. The writing of texts and the utterance of speeches are both in a sense translations/interpretations of the world/experience into language. The language of philosophy is at play with itself like all other uses of languages attempting to say anything. “With this problem of translation we will thus be dealing with nothing less than the problem of the very passage into philosophy. as with all forms of communication.strives to adequately represent reality. Likewise the reading of texts or hearing of speeches depends on the reader or listener’s translation/interpretation of the textual presentation. Kant argued that such a reality existed. in order to communicate what is said must be heard. or outside/independent of our thoughts. What Rorty and Derrida want to argue is that language (and most likely thought) does not mirror anything beyond reflections of itself. 2 .

write.“If reading and writing are one. then philosophy is different than other texts only in its self-deception. If Derrida is correct in seeing philosophical texts as. or goes beyond the text. knowingly or unknowingly being at play with language and. and of whether or not such a text is to be interpreted in a pre-ordained. that the error of the philosopher is to believe his or her text somehow pierces reality. like all other texts. how are we to suppose any determinate meaning to exist in the words we utter. every reception of language is a response to what is presented. Plato’s Pharmacy). How do we know exactly what it is that we write? Faced with the fact that there are seemingly endless interpretations and criticisms of texts ancient to modern. hear. One thing we can know is not done in philosophy is the presentation of a final word. There is no final word because every assertion is received and through being received is re-written. this oneness designates neither undifferentiated (con)fusion nor identity at perfect rest. This is 3 . the is that couples reading with writing must rip apart. “It is a question of knowing what is done and what is not done” (Derrida.” This poses the questions of whether or not a text deemed as philosophy is distinct in its method of interpretation. as is easily thought these days. and read? One thing we can know that is done in philosophy is that what is said is said in response to what has been said before. if it is true. as he thinks. if reading is writing. specific manner by a reader.

it wants to correct Kantian philosophy by eliminating it and through such elimination. and all other forms of communication for that matter. but rather what language does that is important. In this respect philosophy would be on par with literature. which are only happy.what non-Kantian philosophy wants to say and through saying this. as Austin puts it. if there is a real world situation in which a common consensus is established. Yet the pragmatists and Wittgenstein recognize that even if words do not reflect reality. being distinct by how it affects the world. The pragmatist and Wittgensteinian conceptions of meaning as use and truth as what language does for us practically can be placed in agreement with Derrida’s opposition to the idea of language representing reality: it is not a question concerning if language represents something other than itself. Derrida’s argument that Kantian philosophy does not refer to 4 . I think the pragmatists and Wittgenstein would want to say that all language is in a way performative. Interestingly enough there is a strand of philosophy in line with the Kantian tradition that shares many similarities with Derrida and Rorty. A case in point would be performative utterances. they certainly help constitute it. in that its value lies in its application to existence. Derrida’s idea that language is only at play with itself is similar to Wittgenstein’s account of language games. allow non-Kantian philosophy to transcend the philosophical heights and retire back into the slumber of literature.

but philosophy is still a genre of communication distinguishable by its own methodologies (even if we cannot say it is by its subject matter or correspondence to reality). political philosophy. but both philosophy’s methodology and practicality are distinct. The practicality of Kantian philosophy (or philosophies in that tradition) can. philosophy of science. Philosophy may only touch the world outside itself by its practicality like all other language. Yet if Kantian philosophy had a use then it would. and other areas of Kantian philosophy have all sowed practical use. Methodically it differs from other uses of language in its emphasis on rational thought. be seen in recent years. we can see that the search for adequate representation. correspond with the reality it brings about through its use and application. has helped us understand the nature and therefore use of communication. It may be the case that philosophy directly refers only to itself and that there is nothing beyond the text that is mirrored by it. Derrida’s main focus of attack.anything outside of language would make it seems that Kantian philosophy lacks any performative use because it mistakenly attempts to touch reality directly as opposed to through its practicality. Bio-ethics. If we follow the historical strand of Kantian philosophy to the present day. Philosophy of mind has replaced philosophy of language as ‘first philosophy’ and is applied in cognitive studies. if unable to in fact adequately represent (a question still 5 . despite Derrida’s claim that it does not. I think. logic. And philosophy of language itself.

6 .needing further discussion). not by form or matter. is found its connection with the world.” We must add to this stipulation that philosophy is further delimited by what it does and that in this distinction. Rorty said of philosophy that “it is delimited. but by tradition. it is still able to be applied to the extralinguistic world. as is any literary genre. at least.

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